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Beavers Threatened by Drought in Xinjiang
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The long drought in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is threatening the survival of the country's tiny beaver population, according to local forestry sources.

In northern Xinjiang's Altay area, low water levels have driven the semi-aquatic rodents from the Ulungur River, their main habitat in China, to look for new homes.

"We have received reports that beavers have died searching for new habitats. Some are killed by dogs and some simply die from thirst," said Han Baohong, director of the forestry bureau in Fuhai County, on the lower reaches of the Ulungur River.

"After the snow has melted in May, the drought will make living conditions even worse," he said.

Some beavers had started digging into the banks of irrigation channels, posing a threat to local agricultural production.

The population of beavers in China is about 500, even lower than that of the giant panda. Beavers usually spend winter in nests built in riverbanks where water levels exceed 1.5 meters.

The Altay region had seen little precipitation since last winter and has recorded its driest spring since 1974. The water volume of the Ulungur River is just 60 percent of level at the same time last year.

The forestry administration has called on residents to help protect beavers. It has also assigned workers to track the animals so they can help them survive.

(Xinhua News Agency May 5, 2007)

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